Since I received the blessing of getting married to Amy Samples in November of 1997, we have worked hard at cultivating a healthy marriage. There have been seasons when we moved perfectly in synch and found ourselves very fulfilled. Truthfully, there have been other seasons which have been very trying with both of us figuring out on the move how exactly to be the husband and wife that God empowers us to be. When the pressures of ministry are thrown into the marital equation, a whole new set of challenges materialize. I was thinking about how faithful God has been in shepherding us, humbling us, blessing us and affirming us along our way together. We have lived in four different homes as husband and wife in the last twenty-plus years. About two years ago we moved on to a street named Peacock. No joke, Amy and I live on Peacock – a street named after the proudest bird on the planet. As I thought about that this morning on the way in to the office, a verse leapt into my mind.
“An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” – Luke 9:46
Here is the very point at which troubles begin in all of our relationships – marriage or otherwise. The disciples of Jesus were brassy in their self-assertion. They were literally arguing amongst themselves over the topic of which one of them had the most brilliant shine. With puffed out pride-plumes, they were strutting around like peacocks who want to own the room. I can just hear them competing with one another:
“My glory is bigger than your glory, James!” asserted John.
“I was one of the three on the mountain top and saw Jesus transfigured. I saw Moses and Elijah up there but Jesus didn’t even invite you other nine chumps to go up there with Him,” blurted out a cocky Peter.
“The only reason Jesus even took you up there with Him, Peter, is because He isn’t willing to let you out of His sight for a half-hour!” chimed in Philip.
“Dudes, I cast out eleven demons on that last ministry trip – how many did you guys expel?” questioned a smug Andrew.
“I healed a blind man, a deaf woman, a mute boy and four paralytics. Plus, I nearly got a dead guy to rise too. He twitched for a few seconds but never got up – but I’m getting’ close! Anyone wanna try and top that?” said Thomas in a rare moment of confidence.
We can almost hear these conversations playing out as if they actually occurred – they didn’t, mind you, but the spirit of arrogance that might have motivated these words was certainly there. Scripture clearly tells on the disciples when it plainly states that they were literally arguing amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest. Hmmmm…I smell peacock poo. It is hard to admit, but we also suffer from this same disease and, were it not for the clear examples in Scripture of how foolish these types of things are, we might be guilty more often of speaking in the exact same way.
Ask God to make you aware of the pride that crouches at the door of your heart. You are likely too astute to stand up and declare your assurance that you, above all others, are the greatest. You likely don’t even believe that to be true. Yet when we are challenged by someone that we are convinced is not as great as us, we can assert ourselves in a way that reveals that we believe we are at least greater than this person. We believe that we are the greater when winning the argument becomes more important than keeping a friend. We betray our belief that we are the greatest when we continuously have to tear others down in order to feel that we are being built up ourselves. When we use people for our personal gain, it is because we are sure that, between us and them, we are the greater of the two. When we expect people to serve us, to meet our needs, to listen and never speak… it is because we have done the math and concluded that they are a lesser asset than we are. No, we would not wear the tee-shirt that says, “If you are not as impressed with me as I am with myself it’s because you don’t know me well enough yet.” But none of us is a graduate of God’s school of humility. We are still learning. We are still showing up for class. We are still secretly hoping that God is grading us on a curve.
The cross of Jesus Christ settled the ongoing argument concerning who is the greatest. He won, folks. In doing so, Jesus showed us that greatness is displayed in laying yourself down for the good of another. He said the least would be the greatest and the last would end up at the front of the line. He picked a random child out of the crowd one day and placed the lad before the strutting disciples (who momentarily ceased from their peacock dances) and declared that Kingdom greatness was found in the life of a toddler. Surrender, trust, yieldedness, humility, vulnerability and dependence were traits that Jesus both displayed and magnified. This is what makes a person great. Interestingly, those who possess such traits also possess a lack of self-awareness that results in them never considering entering the contest for the title of “Greatest of All”. They are too busy being awestruck with Jesus to be sidetracked with something as silly as their own sand-castle kingdoms.
The argument is over. You have a lot to offer but don’t go overboard in admiring that person looking back at you in the mirror. Admire the greatness you see in others and beware of anything inside of you that strives to assert and protect your own presumed greatness. The moment you are aware that you have humility…you have lost it. So now that we have bowed out of the contest, let’s get back to His business. There is a glorious Kingdom to be proclaimed and advanced and God is not recruiting any peacocks to make it happen.